A Show in Jeffco: Last Week's Meeting and What Lies Ahead

As you may recall, I went to a party last Thursday night. Sadly, I didn’t find the snacks I was promised (though not for lack of trying). What I did find was a relatively small room absolutely packed with cameras, tension, and people wearing cheaply designed custom t-shirts. And snacks or no snacks, I got quite a show.

The meeting began with more than two hours of public comments. Some of these comments were entertaining, but others were so venomous that I felt compelled to cover my little ears. Threats were issued, ultimatums were given, and political potshots were taken. Many (many) thousands of up-twinkles were performed. And through all of this, the board majority listened patiently and without reaction. That’s pretty impressive.

But the public comments were just the beginning. Shortly thereafter, the real fun started as the board began discussion on the “censorship” issue” that has rocked the district in recent weeks. Superintendent Dan McMinimee offered a pretty reasonable compromise that restructured the district’s two existing (and rather mysterious) review committees instead of pursuing an amended proposal for a new committee.

The committees will now have to publicly announce their meetings, and their makeup has been altered to ensure they contain a mix of students, teachers, content experts, and community members appointed by the board. They’ll also be accountable to the board rather than to… well, whomever they were accountable to before. It’s pretty hard to tell given that there is almost no documentation on either committee.

Sounds pretty good, right? After all, dozens of public commenters expressed a desire to see the two existing committees remain intact.

Of course, that doesn’t meant that everyone was happy. Minority board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman made their opinions known with a variety of gestures and rhetorical flourishes, and Dalhkemper’s vociferous exchanges with Board President Ken Witt were highly entertaining. If there were such thing as an Oscar for theatrical performance at a school board meeting, Lesley Dahlkemper would surely be on the short list for it.

Some in the audience also left unhappy, with the word “recall” echoing around the back of the room as the board majority voted on the issue. And just this week, a surprisingly well-organized “grassroots” student group has sprung up to push exactly that agenda.

Interestingly, the timing of the proposed recall process would put it on track to be settled just before the JCEA’s contract with Jefferson County School District expires next spring, which will necessitate the negotiation of a new contract with what the union sees as a “hostile” board. How. Very. Serendipitous.

If you find all this unsurprising, you aren’t alone. After all, recent evidence has made it pretty clear that this is all a front for an ongoing political power struggle. If the strife so far has been the appetizer, we are now getting to the main course. The only question left to ask is, who ordered the chicken?